We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Today, Yahoo! asked if I am I better off than my parents? Do I have more opportunity and a better life overall? These are questions that politicians will be asking the next few months. They are questions pundits continually ask. But posing these questions doesn't really inform us.
Am I earning more in real terms than my father at a similar age? No. I do have much more saved for retirement, but at my age my father was finishing putting two boys through college, and looking to pay for three more children. He had a larger home and a nicer car, and he went on some very nice vacations (sometimes with us, usually without). The problem is, no matter how well off he was, his life is not mine. I can't compare how well I'm doing to him, because we entered very different professions and made very different choices. Do I feel better off? Yes. Do I live very well? Yes. So whether I am better off or not is a vague question. It is not dependent purely on statistics. Answering the two original questions will beg other questions rather than providing a concrete response.
Consider whether there is more opportunity and a better life today. This could easily be answered with a “No”, particularly given the high rate of unemployment and weak economy.
When he was my age, my father saw the economy start to zoom upward after a long period of stagnation in the 1970's and early 1980's. Life was improving for everyone, as was opportunity. Computers were just being introduced, the internet was unheard of, and the ease of making purchases of any kind depended heavily on transporting yourself to the retail outlet of your choice. Warehouse stores such as Costco hadn't come into being. Job searches relied much more heavily on who you knew and your ability to make a phone call and send a thank you letter via the post office. Email wouldn't be introduced for about 10 years. Once you left school, staying in touch required letter writing (again with that snail mail) and making phone calls through a land line (a term which wasn't yet in common parlance).
The prospects seemed better, but the ability to follow up on them was more difficult. While incomes may not have improved much, the standard of living certainly has improved. We have also improved our ability to do 'things' easily.
People today believe they need more things than our parents did. Flat screen TVs are a necessity. A cell phone is in everyone's pocket. Several laptop or desktop computers scattered around the house/apartment. We acquire and do more things than our parents, because what we believe are necessities are quite different. My parents had a dispute over whether the teens needed their own phone line. Our generation has disputes over unlimited texting plans.
Am I better off? Despite the trials and travails of the economy, and the fears we may have of impending doom from either economic collapse or political subjugation, I remain very optimistic. Yes, I am better off. Primarily because I believe this economy may be forcing many people to make choices they don't like to make, but which they should learn to make. I've done my time on the unemployment line, and it's not pretty. It's downright humiliating. But it forced me to consider some of my ideals. What I found is that rather than make me think differently, my beliefs in the marketplace, entrepreneurial behavior, and politics were all reinforced.
I could have easily complained “I'm worse off than my parents, and I want the government to help me!”
I didn't, and my reasons were pretty simple. As bad as things got, I knew they'd get better, too.
If we believe we're worse off than our parents, then we will be. It wouldn't necessarily be true, but we're very good at convincing ourselves that things were 'better back then'. In fact, it's one of the oddities of politics that the liberals claim “things weren't that good before” when they eviscerate conservative views. But they are also quick to say “things are worse today so we need the government to step in and help.” They can only be right about one of these points of view.
I believe something slightly different. That is, “things probably weren't that good before, but I know I can always work hard to make them better for myself and my family.” In other words, the government doesn't have much say in how good things are or aren't, as much as some people want to believe it does. In the end, it's up to us to decide individually how well we are doing, or how well we want to do.
I'm not sure I agree. By comparison, my parents were comfortable, I'm comfortable. My parents raised two successful children - we raised four. They had two cars, we have two cars. They retired to Florida, we retired to South Carolina. On a practical basis, we're pretty much what our parents were - there is no real difference in those terms.
Do we have more entertainment choices? Sure. Are our cars better built and safer? Sure. Are we living in a technological world? Sure. Other than that, nothing is actually different or better.
Your talking technology .. yes technology has improved .. computers . cars .. planes.
Wealth wise our parents were better off as the money they saved was an investment towards the future ..money went further ... today .. the money you save is eaten up by the loss of purchasing power of the dollar. The debt that our parents handed down to us compared to the debt that we will pass to our children .. much much worse state of affairs.
Are things safer in our society now than our parents .. more kidnappings .. rapes .. shootings .. robbery - society has not improved like technology - in fact it is sort of reverse.
My great grandfather was murdered. It is still unsolved. A case of mistaken identity, for sure, but still very random.
My parents allowed me to walk 12 blocks to school in Philadelphia while I was in the second grade. Today, I doubt any parent would allow their child to do this. But I don't see it as society being safer, just that we are more aware of the dangers which exist and take a few extra precautions. I'll never forget my son, in the fourth grade, finally asking if he could walk by himself. We decided it was probably best.
I think things are safer. I certainly feel safer now walking the streets of New York than I did on my first visit by myself in 1977.
I don't even think I'm 'worse off' money-wise, either. I think we create visions in our minds of what we expect and if we don't have exactly that, then we consider ourselves 'worse off'.
I think it is mostly pointless to compare ourselves to anything in the past. There is no direct narrative nor correlation for doing so. The rapidity of change in our time, working somewhat like Moore's law, has isolated us from the past.
Instead, let us focus on the present and the future. That is where the dice will fall, after all.